Thursday, March 12, 2009

ACI, Communion Partner Bishops Mull Petition in Pittsburgh

A friend-of-the-court petition filed in the ongoing litigation in Pittsburgh by the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor represents a new, serious challenge to the long-standing polity of The Episcopal Church, according to a joint statement to be issued March 12 by the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) and the Communion Partner bishops.

“The historic episcopate has long been recognized as an essential, non-negotiable element of Anglican identity,” the statement notes. “The polity of The Episcopal Church, clearly expressed in its name, its constitution and its history, is that of dioceses and bishops meeting in a general convention as equals. The Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council are the agents, not the superiors of dioceses.”

The statement is signed by Communion Partner bishops D. Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana and John Howe of Central Florida and by the Rev. Canon Christopher Seitz, the Rev. Philip Turner, the Rev. Ephraim Radner and Mark McCall of the ACI. According to Fr. Seitz, the statement presages a longer, more scholarly paper that will flesh out the two organizations’ concerns. He said leaders of the two organizations have not ruled out the possibility of filing a friend-of-the-court petition of their own.

Last October clergy and lay deputies to the annual convention in the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to realign with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. Members of the diocese who did not wish to leave The Episcopal Church filed a plea in January to recover assets it says rightfully belong to The Episcopal Church. Lawyers for The Episcopal Church filed a friend-of-the-court petition in February. If leaders for the ACI and Communion Partner bishops were to file a friend-of-the-court petition, it would be to ask the court to deny the pleas by the reorganizing diocese and The Episcopal Church, Fr. Turner said.

“We have made it very clear that we will not choose sides in the fight between Bishop [Robert] Duncan [of Pittsburgh] and the Presiding Bishop,” he said. “We seek only to preserve the historic polity of The Episcopal Church from interference by the civil courts and a Presiding Bishop acting beyond her constitutional authority.”

No comments: